Change the way you teach with one word


Teaching | Monday, March 4, 2013

Change the way you teach with one word


The beginning of the school year is an invigorating time. It’s full of promise, possibility, potential.

I often find myself setting a list of goals for myself and my classes. I tend to jump in headfirst, only to drown in the choppy waves of reality. Sometimes my enthusiasm gets the best of me.

Kind of sounds like New Year’s resolutions, doesn’t it?

Most resolutions are doomed to fail. We overreach into too much commitment.

New School Year’s resolutions can often be the same. They sound exciting in August. We stay the course in September and maybe into October. By February, our New School Year’s resolutions are often dead.

Instead of overreaching, maybe we should ditch that textbook concept and simplify. Forget New School Year’s resolutions that fail. What if we picked just one word to describe what we wanted in an entire school year?

That’s the educational twist on the premise of a new book called “One Word That Will Change Your Life” by Dan Britton, Jimmy Page and Jon Gordon. Instead of setting resolutions – 50 percent of which fail in a month, the authors claim – we could select a single word that embodies what we want an entire year of our life to mean.

One word. Sounds simple, right?

The authors, who are leaders in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization, outline a process for selecting “the word” for a year in their free action plan:

1. Look in. Get somewhere quiet where you can focus and ask yourself three questions: What do I need? What’s in my way? What needs to go?

2. Look up. As Christians, they suggest connecting with God, who reveals your word to you, through prayer and quiet time to reflect.

3. Live your word. Designate three ways to make sure you have regular reminders of your word. Share your word with three people that are close to you for accountability.

Selecting a precise word that describes the change you want to make in various areas of your teaching life – or your life in general – can be so simple and so powerful. It can become the lens that we use for viewing how we interact with our students, how we plan our lessons, how we deliver our teaching.

I’ve decided to choose a word for the remainder of my school year as a test run. My brainstorming list includes words like collaborate, love, relationships, relevance and encouragement. Some other examples I’ve seen include surrender, motivation, positive and hopeful.

I don’t have a word picked out yet, but I will select one soon. (I was excited about the idea and just wanted to share it with you quickly!) And I promise, for accountability’s sake, that I will post my word to my blog ( as soon as it’s selected.

Sharing seems to be a great way to keep us honest with the words we’ve chosen. The authors of the “One Word” book have a word poster generator here.

What words come to your mind with this “One Word” concept? Please post a quick comment on the blog post to let us know what you think. And consider taking the “rest of the school year challenge” that I’m taking. Pick a word and live it out until school’s out!

(For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links, “like” Ditch That Textbook on Facebook and follow @jmattmiller on Twitter!)

FREE teaching ideas and templates in your inbox every week!
Subscribe to Ditch That Textbook
Love this? Don’t forget to share
  • Lklipstein says:

    My personal “one word”for 2016 (and possibly again for 2017) is ENOUGH. I AM enough, I HAVE enough, I DO enough. And, as Mary Poppins remind us, “Enough is as good as a feast.” Seems a propos to teaching as well. Enough. Enough is enough, and sometimes “good enough” actually is good enough. For now, at least.

  • […] in the book  (Ch 35: Create a Mission Statement) on this activity and it is also based on the post Change the Way You Teach With One Word, both written my Matt Miller (@jmattmiller).  Instead of writing a teaching mission statement, the […]

  • T. Free says:

    I’m thinking my one word will be “motivating/motivated” I want my students to become motivated to be the best that they can be, excel, and work hard.

  • >